Fear of the yawn

March 31, 2011

This past month I’ve been sleepy, tired, dragging. Not in the mornings, but in the afternoons, I find myself yawning and hunting down caffeine as I used to do in my heyday of all-night paper writing and reading. I’ve had a heightened gag reflex, too, which could be explained by a recent bout with a stomach virus, but I found myself turning my frequent need to yawn over and over in my head, worrying at it because I couldn’t dismiss it.

It felt like I might be, well, pregnant.

I was terrified.

I haven’t had my period since before I was pregnant with Dot, and I never thought I’d miss it, but even though I take birth control daily, I feel like I’m flying blind in terms of what’s going on inside my uterus. I keep a few pregnancy tests around so that I don’t end up as one of those women on “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” and end up giving birth at the reference desk of my library while horrified undergrads avert their eyes. Yes, I’m aware that my brain sometimes offers up very unfortunate fantasies.

Being pregnant is a great gift, but for me it is also 1) scary and stressful as anything, 2) financially inadvisable at this point in my life, 3) something, it turns out, that I’m not very good at, and 4) something I don’t want to do again until lots of other people have been pregnant first.

N tells me that a hot topic among some philosophers right now is the artificial womb, a place to grow babies without relying on women’s bodies. This seems like the stuff of science fiction, considering how much we don’t know about what goes on inside the uterus, but I can see the appeal. No bedrest. No pre-eclampsia. No preterm labor. Fewer surprises. There’s a special kind of anxiety produced by having such limited control over what is happening within your own body, and a special kind of sorrow when things don’t go well and even though you are so intimately and physically involved with the things not going well, you cannot fix them. I hate that feeling so very much. I’m not ready to face the possibility of feeling it again.

Dot is in daycare, and it’s good daycare, and it eats up half my monthly salary, and it’s worth it because she’s close and her caregivers are loving and conscientious and she enjoys the other kids there, and it’s the next best thing to keeping her with me all day. But if we had another infant now, either N or I would have to give up working outside the home to work inside it and we’d have to figure out how to make ends meet on one salary. Not impossible, but not easy, either. And I have a feeling I’d be back to one shower a week. If I was lucky.

Also, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not good at being pregnant. I’m jealous of those who are. I’m happy that I carried two babies to term, and I’m really happy that Dot was born healthy and screaming, but Teddy had a hole in his diaphragm (my fault? who knows?), and with Dot I had hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and (suspected but not confirmed) gestational diabetes. If I do this again, this great gamble, this business of life and death, I want to be in better shape – better rested, more fit – for many reasons, not the least of which is I’d like to be able to absolve myself of as much blame as possible if something goes wrong.

And my brother and his wife have been trying and trying. It’s starting to get frustrating for them, although they don’t discuss it much. If anyone in my family is going to be seeing double blue lines, it should by my sister-in-law, who is loving and fun and has her act together. In my afternoons of yawning, I worried about getting together with the family this summer and how hard it would be if I were pregnant and she weren’t. So much heartache and longing and preparation and money and time go into building families. I know so many people for whom this has been a heart-wrenching struggle. I don’t want to be the stupidly fertile woman who gets carelessly knocked up.

I thought about all of these things and then reminded myself that, if  it turns out that, in spite of birth control and the severely limited sex life that results from our daughter sleeping in the middle of our bed, I find myself pregnant, I will make the best of it. I will manage the fear, and we’ll figure out the finances, we’ll figure out how to introduce Dot to the concept that she has to share her parents, and I’ll be closely monitored for hypertension, pre-e, etc., and I will count it a gift and a blessing, and love will pour out for the new little one.

When we returned from our Portland trip, I looked through our book of baby names and wondered if I might be carrying a little Basil or Calvin or Dorothea.  then I took a pregnancy test out of the closet and discovered in a matter of minutes that I am not. I expected to be happy, relieved, and I was.

I was also disappointed and a little sad.

I would like Dot to have a living sibling, someday. Someday when I’m braver and more physically fit and energetic. Someday when my brother has a child, too. Someday when Dot isn’t in the priciest years of child care, when she has soaked up enough love and attention to be ready to share. Someday when we have an established bedtime routine. Someday…

Perhaps by the time it really is someday, it will be too late.

That’s not entirely all right. I knew that for certain as I felt that wave of disappointment crash over me, even though I knew that not being pregnant is best for me and my family right now. But…if someday never arrives, it’s not a tragedy for me, either. Right now I dream of two, but I think if I had two, I’d dream of three.

No matter how many children I have, I will always be missing one.



  1. I understand, totally. I want Angus to have a living sibling, too. Having just the one six foot under doesn’t seem enough. I know I’ll forever be trying to fill the hole in my family though, but it is a giant gaping hole that can never be filled. More than anything, I just want my little girl back.

  2. I love your writing and I am all too familiar with the unfortunate fantasies that one’s brain can deliver up, uninvited, with alarming clarity. I think that maybe we tend to have different kinds of expectations after we’ve lost a baby–shouldn’t we suddenly develop the “Duggar” perspective that every child is a gift and we can’t really control anything, so let’s just see how many babies we can make? (Or maybe that’s one of those previously mentioned fantasies). Anyway, of course it makes sense that we have the same kind of anxieties and everyday concerns (financial, health, mental health) that anyone else would. Also I adore your baby names. I have a great aunt Dot (short for Margaret) who is an absolute gem and I think it’s a darling name.

  3. ((hugs))

  4. Oh Erica. I’m sure you must have felt happy, relieved, disappointed and sad all in the very same instant. I have a horrible suspicion that I’ll always dream of one more.

    The artificial womb sounds like an interesting topic although I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to follow all the philosophical arguments. But as my living daughter spent nearly twice as long dependent on medical equipment as she did reliant on my body, it’s an interesting question to someone like me who has only managed to pull off ‘half’ a pregnancy.

    Hoping for your brother and SIL and for that ‘someday’ for you, N and Dot should it arrive. I’m sorry that you had to encounter a troll (and a sub-standard one at that)

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